We review the Salsa Bucksaw full-suspension fatbike

bucksaw 1Until now, sand and snow were the surfaces that hardtail fatbikes were designed for. Despite attempts to create a more trailworthy fatbike geometry, most fell far short of that and retained the heavy, slow handling and limited acceleration that defined the category as a whole. Salsa, as usual in the forefront of inventive engineering and genre creation, clearly wasn’t willing to take that as an answer. They designed a full-suspension fatbike that eats terrain you’ve always thought was unrideable.

At first the Bucksaw is aesthetically confusing. The frame looks like a quick and racy short-travel XC Split Pivot dual-suspension design. But then you take in the 3.8” wide tires, drilled out (to save weight) fatbike rims, and mammoth fork, and you realize it’s a fatbike. The only way to deal with the resulting cognitive dissonance is to take this mutant out for a ride boldy, where no one has gone before. You might spend the next few days with Google Earth, reconsider all of the terrain you know, all over the world, with the understanding that now you can probably ride it.

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Salsa Bucksaw 2, $3999

This thing eats trail. Seriously, any kind of trail you ride, this bike loves it. It climbs, it descends, it carves impossible corners, it flies over gaps, you don’t even -notice- most obstacles at all, all the while hooking up with whatever the terrain is and churning out mile after mile of nirvana-level bliss. In fact, the only real caveat is that the bike is so capable, you could find yourself riding beyond your skill and if things get truly hairy you might eat some of that lovely singletrack you had been blasting through moments before. The only thing this bike can’t do is make appropriate judgement calls about your physical (and mental) safety and abilities, so keep it dialed back for the first few rides until you know what you can get away with. A full-face helmet with MIPS would be a good idea, even for skilled riders. Safety first, and you only have one brain.

So here’s how it works. Most full suspension frames use the fork and rear suspension unit to do two things: small bump compliance and large bump compliance. The physics of those two things are very different, and suspension manufacturers have gotten fancier and fancier every year, designing dual air chambers and different valve flow rates and such to get good responsiveness for both. It’s almost always something of a compromise, though; as the small bump compliance improves, the suspension overall gets mushier; as the large bump compliance improves, the suspension has a higher force requirement to trigger it, so you start to feel smaller bumps. The suspension units that do both well are expensive and have more complicated, and therefore delicate, internals. The Bucksaw uses the huge tire volume and ridiculously low tire pressure to take care of the small bump compliance, and the suspension is primarily tuned for excellent large bump compliance. That, combined with the vast confidence-inspiring traction you get thanks to the huge contact patch of the tires, makes for a super smooth, super fast ride. And also a really addictive one.

 

To get into the really nitty gritty, let’s start with all the usual suspects. The frame is mechanically formed AL-6066 series aluminum with carbon fiber seatstays. The Bucksaw has a tapered head-tube/steerer tube with a Cane Creek 10 ZS 44/56 sealed cartridge bearing headset. The RockShox Bluto 100mm travel fork uses a 15mm thruaxle for stiffness and superior hub retention. It’s paired with the RockShox Monarch RT3 rear suspension unit, and the aforementioned Split Pivot (™) suspension design. Quick aside: Split Pivot is a mechanism that puts the rear-most pivot concentric to the rear axle, which has the main effect of removing both acceleration and braking forces from the suspension input, making the bike feel stiffer under pedaling load and preventing the suspension from compressing while engaging the rear brake. In short, it’s a massive improvement over pretty much most other full frame suspension designs and a lot of high quality dual suspension manufacturers license the patent. Moving on: the Bucksaw 2 (gold; the one we’re stocking) has predominantly SRAM components hanging off of it; X9 Type 2 rear derailleur, X7 HDM 10 speed front derailleur, 1030 10 speed 11-36 cassette, X5 Fat Bike specific 34/22 crankset, X9 BB 2×10 shifters, SRAM Guide hydraulic disc brakes with 180mm rotors front and rear. The wheelset is constructed from the Salsa Conversion fat bike hubs, 150mm front with 15mm thruaxle, 177mm rear with 12mm thruaxle, Salsa Marge Lite 65mm drilled rims, and Surly Nate 26” x 3.8” 120 tpi folding bead tires. Everything else is pretty basic. A Salsa stem, a WTB saddle, a Truvativ seatpost; all good quality but inexpensive enough that it won’t hurt your soul to replace it with something different if you have strong preferences for those items.

The Bucksaw 1 has the same frame, different paint, and nicer parts: a Thomson stem, a RockShox Reverb dropper seatpost, SRAM 1×11 (30t ring x 10-42 cassette) drivetrain, and Guide RS hydraulic brakes, but the same fork, rear suspension, wheels/tires, and so on. The Bucksaw 1 weighs in, without pedals, at a thoroughly impressive 36 lbs 6 oz for the Medium frame.


At $3,999 for the 2 and $4,999 for the 1, we’re not talking entry-level mountain bike tech here. This stuff is not for the weekend warrior or mountain bike wannabe. If you get this bike, you are invested. You believe, not just in mountain biking, but in the validity and future of fat bikes as mountain bikes, not just sand and snow bikes, and you are excited, nay, you are delirious with joy, that someone else out there feels the same way, and moreover that someone (really, someones, this was very much a team effort) invested the time, the passion, the knowledge, the money, and the love, into bringing this bike into the world. You will not be disappointed.